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1 Corinthians 7:37

ESV But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well.
NIV But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin--this man also does the right thing.
NASB But the one who stands firm in his heart, if he is not under constraint, but has authority over his own will, and has decided this in his own heart, to keep his own virgin, he will do well.
CSB But he who stands firm in his heart (who is under no compulsion, but has control over his own will) and has decided in his heart to keep her as his fiancée, will do well.
NLT But if he has decided firmly not to marry and there is no urgency and he can control his passion, he does well not to marry.
KJV Nevertheless he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power over his own will, and hath so decreed in his heart that he will keep his virgin, doeth well.

What does 1 Corinthians 7:37 mean?

Paul is addressing the issue of whether a man engaged to be married should go through with the marriage. This is in light of what Paul has already taught in this chapter. Paul has been careful to note that marriage is a good thing, and his personal preference for a single life is not a universal command from God (1 Corinthians 7:25). He's been clear that those who are married should remain so (1 Corinthians 7:17–24). But, what about someone who is not yet married, but committed to someone else in an engagement—a betrothal? Should an engaged man back out of the agreement?

In the previous verse, Paul instructed the engaged man to go through with the marriage, for appropriate reasons. For instance, if he felt ending the engagement would be unfair or shameful for her (1 Corinthians 7:36). Or, if sexual desires were strong to the point of risking sexual immorality outside of marriage. Some interpreters suggest the previous verse was addressed to Christian fathers with daughters who were engaged to be married.

If Christian fathers are being addressed, they are encouraged to proceed with the marriage if ending the engagement would be dishonorable to their daughters. Or, if their daughters have given them any reason to believe they do not have the gift of celibacy, as Paul has described it. Paul repeats that it is not a sin for their daughters to marry.

Now, though, Paul says to these fathers that if they are firm in their conviction that their daughter should not get married, and assuming the items mentioned in the previous verse are not an issue, the father does well to keep her as his daughter and not allow her to marry the man she is betrothed to.

Still other translators believe these verses to be addressed to the engaged man himself, granting permission to break off the engagement if those other concerns are not an issue.

The reason for some of these alternate ideas is the underlying Greek of the passage. These specific phrases are difficult to translate from the original. Scholars have reached differing conclusions about the meaning of verses 36–38, but the principles are the same. Regardless of who is being addressed, the reasons behind these choices are the same, in practice. Paul is saying to all parties that they do well to get married or not to get married, based on the conditions he has laid out.
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